Canaletto, one of the few artists whose works are recognisable from the other side of a gallery, painted this artwork in either the late 1730s or the early 1740s. I hadn’t realised how many of his works that the Wallace Collection holds, one of the highest number in the world.
The painting has an exquisite amount of detail, although the artist shuffled some things about to fit them in the artwork. Artistic licence and all that…. The paintings would have usually been purchased by those on a Grand Tour, a permanent reminder of the things that they had seen on their travels.
The gallery notes (far better than I can), in its long description, that:
“The figures in the foreground represent different levels of Venetian society; from the seated beggar on the left, the merchants in the centre, and the priest and lawyer engaged in conversation on the right. There is the customary assortment of sea vessels in the picture, including a burchiello, or passenger boat, being towed in the middle ground. This is a superb example of Canaletto’s attention to composition. The triangle of the foreground terrace – framed by the temporarily-docked burchiello with the detail of passengers embarking – is matched by the boat in the middle of the painting. Its two masts are in turn replicated in the vertical soar of the Campanile di San Marco and the dome of Santa Maria della Salute.”
It’s not known when Francis Seymour-Conway, the 1st Marquess of Hertford, purchased this painting, but he had been on a Grand Tour to Italy in the late 1730s. It then remained in the family collections until the house and artworks were given to the public in the late nineteenth century.